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Question
Shalom Rav, What is the meaning of truth (Emet) in Jewish thought (Machshava)? I understand it’s a big topic but I need an answer to start with and if possible suggest me any articles or books (specific parts of some books) to build a perspective according to our tradition.. Thank you so much for your valuable and precious time..!
Answer
"You shall give the truth of Jacob, the loving-kindness of Abraham" (Micah 7:20), the unique character trait of Yaakov Avinu in which he excelled was truth, unlike Avraham Avinu who excelled in the character trait of kindness. Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky ZT”L asks; how can we say that Yaakov's unique character trait is truth, Yaakov is one of the first people in the Torah to be identified with a lie. When he took the blessings with deception from his father Isaac instead of his brother Esau, "Your brother came with cunning and took your blessing". Rabbi Kamenetzky says that from here we learn, that truth and falsehood are not the way people think, that truth is correct facts and falsehood is incorrect facts, but rather truth is saying what is right according to the Torah’s perspective and falsehood is saying what is wrong to say according the Torah's perspective. For example, one who modifies a statement in the interest of peace, as permitted by Jewish law, instead of telling a truth that will cause controversy, according to the Torah's view, is the truth even though the facts are incorrect. (I heard this in a recording of a shiur given by Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky ZT”L on Pirkei Avot). It is also worthwhile to see Rabbi Dessler's article "What is truth and what is falsehood" in Michtav M’Eliyahu, part 1, p. 94.
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